Gators are heavy favorites in Nashville

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With four very winnable games remaining on Florida’s schedule, their biggest challenge this Saturday will be not looking too far ahead. The Gators travel to Music City for this year’s edition of the annual SEC East showdown against the Vanderbilt Commodores. At 0-6, Vanderbilt is the only SEC program without a win, and a season trajectory that couldn’t be any more different than Florida’s.

The Commodores are averaging 16.5 points per game on offense, a number that was significantly improved by scoring a season high, 35 points in last week’s game against Kentucky. With such an anemic offensive output, it’s no surprise that a team that gives up 35.8 points per game on defense, would be winless.

Meanwhile, the Gators offense looks like a juggernaut, scoring 45.8 points per game, and being led by Heisman front-runner, Kyle Trask. Despite the Gators defense allowing 30 points per game, they have shown some improvement over the last few weeks. With all of these things in consideration, Vegas bookmakers have the Gators as -31.5 point favorites in Nashville.

Believe it or not, such a lofty spread isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and here’s why. Even without superstar tight end, Kyle Pitts, the Gators were able to put on an offensive clinic last week, amassing 593 yards and 63 points in a blowout win against an overachieving Arkansas football team. Not only did Kyle Trask throw 6 touchdown passes to 4 different receivers, but the Gators ground game produced over 200 yards, as well.

What we have learned about Florida’s offense, this season, is that while they have a couple of superstar talents in Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, they are much deeper than that. They have an uncanny ability to spread the ball all over the field and every one of their skill players can hurt you. In fact, Florida has had just two games this season where fewer than 10 receivers recorded a catch, South Caroline (9) and Texas A&M (8).

Much of this success is due to Kyle Trask’s ability to find the open routes pre-snap. When you combine his incredible IQ for the game with elite accuracy and touch, the end result is electrifying. When I look at Vanderbilt’s defense, I don’t see anyone that can slow this Gators’ offense down.

On the defensive side of things, Florida will be tasked with stymieing a Vanderbilt offense that ranks in the bottom five of the SEC in every major category. The ‘Dores are led by true freshman quarterback, Ken Seals and their top receiving threat, Cam Johnson. Seals has been rocky through much of the season but does seem to be improving, save for throwing 4 interceptions in his last three games.

Johnson, leads the Commodores with 37 receptions, 355 yards, and two touchdowns, and could create some problems in the Gators’ secondary. Florida will need to contest him on every down, forcing one of Vandy’s other receivers to take the lead. However, I think Florida’s defensive backs will be receiving significant help from the push up front.

Over the last three weeks, the Gators have done a much better job of creating havoc in the backfield. They’ve also done this against much better offensive line talent than they will be facing on Saturday. Defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham knows this, and will bring plenty of heat in Nashville, testing the composure of the true freshman quarterback.

In the end, this Florida team, like the previous 10 SEC opponents they’ve faced, will be too much for Vanderbilt to overcome. Despite improved play in recent weeks, I don’t see any way that Vandy keeps this one close. Florida will win this game and they will cover the spread while doing so. Gators win 63-14.

Television coverage begins at 12 noon EST on ESPN.

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